Red Team

Published Mar 18, 2023Updated Jun 12, 2023
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Red Team is a group of people within an organization who try to play the role of cybercriminals and emulate an adversary’s attack. A Red Team’s objective is to improve an enterprise’s cybersecurity posture by demonstrating the impacts of successful attacks.

Red Team In-Use

A Red Team might seek to carry out a penetration test to model real-world attack techniques and methods. It can usually gain access through the theft of user credentials and social engineering techniques. Red teams are usually composed of highly experienced security professionals or ethical hackers. Red teams can help organizations identify misconfigurations, strengthen network security, and increase awareness among employees as to the risk of human error which may compromise the organization’s security.

Some Examples of Red Team

  • Social engineering: Seemingly harmless emails are sent to try and trick employees to give up their access credentials or download malware. If the red team does manage to dupe someone, they will continue to move laterally throughout the system while testing more vulnerabilities along the way.
  • Application exploitations: red teams identify any vulnerabilities in web applications and use these holes to carry out further attacks.
  • Network exploitations: a red team will discover misconfigurations or unpatched holes in the company’s network. This can create backdoors to access sensitive and confidential company data.

Red Team vs. Penetration Testing

Red teaming and penetration testing are often used interchangeably when talking about offensive security measures. However, penetration testing is only a small part of red teaming. Penetration testing is a small targeted attack, while red teaming tries to mimic a real-world attack that could be multifaceted. Red teaming is more comprehensive and can also include social engineering tactics as well as physical security tests.

Red Team vs. Blue Team

Red team will use a variety of tactics such as social engineering, penetration testing, and physical security breaches to emulate the methods that an attacker might use. A red team will probe for weaknesses that traditional security measures might not detect. After an attack simulation, a red team can provide an after action report outlining any vulnerabilities found and offering ways to remediate them.

Conversely, blue teams conduct risk assessments and provide relevant mitigation tools for companies to better gauge their defenses. An organization may schedule red team vs. blue team exercises in which red teams may attempt various techniques to launch an attack. The blue team is tasked with trying to repel these attacks and expose the red team activity. Ultimately, the blue team must prevent any data breaches and then remediate any uncovered vulnerabilities.

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